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Spring 'Baah-tle' Lambs at Coulter Farms...

Posted 4/11/2018 1:04pm by Kinley Coulter.

     As I drank my precious morning cup of joe with my wife this morning, I got treated to not one, but TWO ‘rites of spring’ unfolding right outside of our living-room window.  

      The first half of my coffee was consumed while observing a mating pair of sparrows vigorously negotiating with a pair of blue-birds for possession of a blue-bird house that they were all coveting with  their beady little bird eyes.  All four were calmly dragging in string and twigs and straw and twine from all over the farm to build a nest in the house ...as though there was going to be no problem converting this ‘single family’ dwelling into a duplex.  As this drama unfolded, I sipped my way into the second half of my coffee and watched my three year old daughter carefully wiggle under the bottom electric wire of the pasture fence to get to the newest 'bottle lamb’  pen.  She didn’t used to be so careful and fastidious about keeping her backside way down while going under the wire… but she is much more motivated after a few ‘close encounters' with the hot fence wire.  (I’m just glad it’s her and not me crawling under that 10” high wire).
 
       Anyway, this little girl was pulling along a baby bottle full of freshly warmed organic cow milk, destined to be lamb breakfast for a frantically bawling lamb, that after fasting all night, was quite sure it was about to perish from starvation.   The two ring circus of four birds wrangling over a birdhouse on a fencepost, above a little girl carefully wriggling on her belly through freshly green April grass, on a sunny morning that promised to be warm, was quite entertaining.  I often say that spring is not my favorite season at the farm with all of its wind, rain and mud… but this WAS a very nice spring morning.  
 
 
     Bottle lambs are great fun to watch, and the girls love feeding them 5 times a day… but, they are an undesired indicator of a social breakdown in our sheep society.  Every bottle lamb represents a broken ewe/lamb relationship.  The worst offenders are the ‘first time lambers’… young ewes that have never lambed before.   They have a highly annoying habit of dropping their first, precious, long awaited lamb and calmly walking away from it without ever looking back.  We try to pen these negligent ewes up with their lamb but, if 24 hours go by with no attention from momma… the lamb is labeled an ‘orphan’ and becomes the little girls’ responsibility (a joyful duty!) to raise on milk for 90 days until it can live on pasture.
 
     Twins lambs are the most common (and most desired) pregnancy outcome in our flock.  We used to cheer for triplet lambs but now we are wiser.  Triplets often result in a bottle lamb, as the mother ignores the smallest or slowest of the three.  When there are only two teats… being small and slow puts you at a decided disadvantage.  We had one famous ewe that had quadruplets in July and triplets in February!  An amazing feat never repeated before or since!   She actually raised 6 of the 7 herself.  Another problem with triplet lambs is that they are born smallish and never really catch up with twins in size.  Single lambs are very common with first time mothers… they are born larger than twins and get a double share of milk from momma so they get HUGE!  Anyway, now we cheer for twin lambs.
 
     Almost all of the ewes have lambed by now and the whole flock is hungrily eyeing the lush, green, organic, April pasture…mere feet away, but it might as well be on the moon because of that pesky barnyard gate.   Any day now, the eagerly anticipated 'barnyard exodus' will begin with the opening of the pasture gate, and the sheep tsunami pouring out… lambs climbing over each other, two and three deep, in their rush to be the first one on grass.  If you have never had 100% Grassfed lamb… you should treat yourself.  I grew up with a decidedly negative view of lamb as a greasy, strongly flavored meat.  We had leg of lamb on Good Friday, and I could only eat it if a small piece of it was swimming deep in mint jelly.  No-one ever told me that grainfed lamb is greasy and strong flavored and grassfed lamb is mild and sweet.  I also never knew how much chemical wormer got fed to conventional lambs… making Certified Organic lamb a special treat.  I was reading recently about the ‘ dirty dozen’ of highly pesticided fruits and vegetables.  Conventional lamb is undoubtedly the most chemically wormed meat of all livestock species.  We hardly ever get to eat our own ‘chemical free’ lamb here at the farm because it’s always selling out and it’s kind of a ‘budget-busting’ meat.  But why not treat yourself when it's a special occasion!